Wednesday, August 30, 2006
exercise for fingers
Two of the mediums were quietly chanting a phrase. Over and over and over again.
I came here –- to this dilapidated cottage in the grounds of a Taoist temple –- not of my own volition. My aunt, who was pushing my elbow indicating I should sit at the table, settled into a creaky chair. Perhaps she needed to lose some weight. Perhaps she needed to get a life. But what she wanted most at this point was to make contact with her dead husband.
Of course I did not believe in all this mumbo-jumbo. Why should I, a woman of science with a Master’s degree in biotechnology? But what to do? I was my aunt’s only relative living near enough to her to drag along for this venture of folly.
I felt a nudge at my ribs. Apparently I was off day-dreaming again, and now I was supposed to link hands with Auntie May-Ta and one of the mediums, whose hand I doubted was freshly washed.
Goose pimples raised their tingling little heads on my forearms when I heard the middle medium chant, “Chen Cheng Kim, Chen Cheng Kim, Chen Cheng Kim!”
For heaven’s sakes, that’s not my aunt’s husband’s name, I thought. “Hey, guys,” I piped up. “His name was Chen Cheng Kee.” My deliberate, rather too loud enunciation reverberated in the room. Auntie May-Ta glared at me.
“Chen Cheng Kee, Chen Cheng Kee, Chen Cheng Kee…” the medium adjusted his chanting obediently. “Come to us, speak to us… Your wife is desirous of your presence.”
Oh, what hogwash! I was whinging and complaining in my head when, unexpectedly, my goose-pimply feeling turned into a top-to-toe sensation – which really got my attention. One by one, the mediums fell over out of their chairs. The hand of the one next to me slipped out of mine like a slimy squid.
Then I felt my jaw opening against my will, my throat tingling and my tongue moving.
A baritone voice came through my lips: “May-Ta, let me be in the cosmos... it is peaceful… aaaahhh… It has an end with these practitioners and 'solletica' of the 'boneses' contentment of the ways.” With a distinctive ‘ping!’ deep inside my head, I snapped back to my normal self.
“What the hell did I just say?” I asked no one in particular but turned to look at Auntie. She startled me: Her eyes were shining with tears. And her expression of near-ecstasy? It was a tad worrying. “Solletica was the brandname of the ointment I rubbed on your uncle’s limbs when they hurt,” she said, smiling. Was that supposed to explain everything? Never mind, at least she got what she wanted; she’s happy.
Meanwhile, the trio of mediums were getting off the floor and groaning – in pain or out of dismay over potential loss of income, I couldn’t be bothered to find out. Surely they don’t expect any money in a red packet after their fiasco? Auntie May-Ta made to pay them but I pressed it back into her purse. I took her elbow and guided her out into the sunshine.
After all, as a dutiful niece, I did all the hard work, didn’t I?
By Argus Lou (2006)
The above was an exercise to write around a phrase translated many times into other languages and finally back into English.
Original English Text:
There is a point to this exercise and it is tickling my funny bone.
Translated back to English:
It has an end with these practitioners and solletica the boneses
contentments of the ways.